Sunday, February 3, 2019

The Discipline to Delay Indulgence

Blog by Tracy Butz, CSP

Have you ever wondered why you make some of the decisions that you do? I believe one significant factor that influences one choice over another is a human desire to move toward pleasure and avoid pain. By pleasure I mean things that create feelings of happiness, strength, optimism, energy, or inspiration. With pain, I am referring to feelings of anger, confusion, helplessness, frustration, or even boredom. If you are regularly able to demonstrate self-discipline by delaying pleasure or gratification, your chances for achieving success in life increase substantially. 

According to a landmark Stanford University study, children were provided one marshmallow and given the choice of eating it or waiting fifteen minutes and being rewarded for holding out with a second marshmallow. Some kids ate theirs right away. Others waited. But the study’s real significance came years later, when researchers discovered that the children who held out for the reward had become far more successful adults than the children who ate the first marshmallow immediately. This “marshmallow theory” was found to explain that the key difference between success and failure is not merely hard work or intelligence, but the ability to delay gratification.

If you are looking to delay gratification, like to save money now to be able to purchase a more desirable item in the future, here are five strategies to help you stand strong: 
  1. Be clear on your values and what matters most. Have a clear understanding of what is important to you and what you want to accomplish. When you realize these aspects, you are more likely to make choices that can help you achieve the goals and success you desire.
  2. Break down big projects/goals. Just like running, athletes train very differently for a sprint than a marathon. The long project will help you to learn about the process, setting mini-goals along the way, and ongoing persistence.
  3. Offer visual progress. Use a jar of marbles or some sort of visual tool to demonstrate working toward a goal and making progress versus giving yourself a huge reward after accomplishing a task. Once the jar is full, then you get to reward yourself.
  4. Get an accountability partner. Just like it is often times easier to workout with a buddy so that you both are less inclined to stop because you know the other person is counting on you, sharing your plan and progress with an accountability partner can help maintain your focus and discipline.
  5. Frequent reflection. When you find yourself struggling with wanting something now and you’re about to cave in, stop to consciously reflect as to why you are feeling more vulnerable than usual. Try to pinpoint the motivation and reasons behind this strong craving. This time spent in reflection just may be enough to break the cycle of “now” and allow you to postpone the pleasure. 
Delaying gratification can be hard-work. Depending on what you want to achieve, it may take weeks, months, years, and sometimes even decades. And even if you don’t always make the best choices, hopefully you learn from the poor ones and appreciate the good ones. As I contemplate my life, I know that when I exercise self-discipline to delay an indulgence or an instant pleasure, I reap the sweet rewards. I tend to appreciate it more, feel a greater sense of accomplishment, and achieve a more successful outcome. Hold it, smell it, or even lick it, but don’t gobble the marshmallow yet.

Personal Challenge: What areas in your life do you feel you need instant gratification and find it difficult to delay? What other strategies do you have for delaying gratification?

Strengthen Your Courage Muscle

Blog by Tracy Butz, CSP

Perhaps you are confronted with taking a chance when others will not, or your idea is very unpopular. Maybe you desperately want to follow your vision, no matter where it takes you, but you are meeting intense resistance. Perchance you are simply trying to do the right thing, even though far easier options exist. Most of us are called to be courageous more than we think, and we likely already possess many of the qualities that other remarkably courageous people have demonstrated. But if building definition in your courage muscle is a strength-enhancing exercise you want or need to target, highlighted below are six ways to grow that muscle: 
  1. Stop procrastinating and give courage a try. Do your best. Learn from the results of that first attempt and avoid becoming discouraged.
  2. Face what you fear. Look it in the eye and determine exactly what you are afraid of. Rejection? Being laughed at? Not being accepted? Then once you know what you fear, face it and tell yourself, “This fear will pass.” Take one small step, then another. Action builds courage.
  3. Step outside your comfort zone. By being open to meeting new people, visiting a city you have never been to but are curious about, or tasting an appealing entrĂ©e, one that you hadn’t considered before, you gradually strengthen your ability to be courageous.
  4. Stand up for others who need it. Find your inner strength to take a stand when necessary. Start by demonstrating courage when someone else is in need, rather than standing up for yourself first, since that is often times less intimidating.
  5. Demonstrate self-discipline. Be very clear about what you want and don’t want, and remain steadfast even when you are enticed to veer off course.
  6. Be willing to fail. True learning happens when things don’t go your way; when you fail or lose. Be willing to fail, but never willing to quit. Failure doesn’t feel good, but the result, if you learn from it, is powerful. 
Rather than succumbing to the learned behavior of fearfulness, know your limits, but commit to exercising courage more. If you want to transform your life and not reach the end of your line with regrets, make courage a conscious virtue you need to live with, versus without.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Keystone Habits: A Non-Negotiable Routine

Blog by Tracy Butz, CSP
Habits are powerful forces. They influence what our brain tells us to do, based on decisions that have become part of engrained routine. Everyone has routines, or habits; things you just do—without thinking about them. According to research from Duke University, up to 45 percent of your actions are unconscious habits. This means that a significant part of what you think, say, feel and do are strongly shaped by your habits—whether they are positive or negative.
But all habits are not created equal. Some have little impact on your life, and others, referred to as “keystone habits,” can affect your life immensely. Exercising on a regular basis is one example of a keystone habit—which is a habit that creates a domino effect on the rest of your life by naturally influencing you to build more breakthrough routines that produce positive outcomes. Keystone habits are very different from regular habits, like posting a daily message on multiple social media platforms. A regular habit is a positive thing to do, but whether you choose to do it or skip it, it doesn’t have a huge impact on the rest of your life.
By contrast, a keystone habit, like consistently exercising five days per week, is a habit that can also lead to other positive, unintended outcomes like a stronger and more flexible body, enhanced mood, decreased level of stress, reduced risk of heart disease, enhanced productivity, improved quality of sleep and heightened brain function. When you choose to make keystone habits a non-negotiable part of your routine, you change. You take more control of your life and the positive ripple effect naturally occurs. In addition to exercise, three common keystone habits include: active goal-setting, efficiently managing time and saving more money. Three uncommon keynote habits that also create breakthrough routines are:
  • Eat dinner together as a family. Not only does this habit encourage healthier eating patterns—like a greater opportunity for portion control and nutritionally balanced meals—but it also is a perfect setting to expose your family to different foods, save money with less expensive home-cooked entrees, and spend quality time together. Moreover, according to a report by Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children (CASA), when this routine is practiced at least five times per week, a teen’s chance of smoking, drinking, and using drugs is drastically decreased.                                                                                                  
  • Make your bed. It may seem irrelevant, but tidying up your bed as part of your morning routine is a small, quick habit that sets a precedent of order and productivity for the day. Creating a neat and organized environment can positively impact your mental state with a small sense of accomplishment—in just 30 seconds, no less.
  • Discard and replace. Choose one day a week, or every other week, or even once a month, where you discard something you don’t love or need. This process helps reduce clutter and gives you the opportunity to replace things that don’t add value with items you enjoy and appreciate. 

Rather than going through life without thoughtful intention, make today the day you choose to cultivate one keystone habit. By taking this one small action, you will likely find the momentum to set off a slow avalanche of additional changes, positively transforming your life in amazing ways.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Stand Out...Nicely

Blog from Tracy Butz, CSP

Since moving out to Colorado, I now see more individuals holding signs pleading for money or food, as they stand alongside a busy street or off ramp. I am guilty of thinking, “Does she really need money?” or “Why doesn’t he apply at one of the many establishments needing able bodies to join their team?” or “What will s/he really spend the money on if I choose to give?”

Recently, I was traveling for work, heading back to the airport in a rental car, somewhat hurried and looking forward to returning home. As I approached a stop light, an elderly man was holding a sign that read, “I’m an injured, retired vet looking for a little help.” What caught me off guard was his clean and orderly appearance, his combed hair and shaved face, yet a look of despair and sadness I couldn’t shake. Time seemed to simply stand still while waiting for a green light.

For the first time in several years, I opened my wallet and saw a twenty dollar bill. Without hesitation, I lowered my vehicle’s window, stretched out my hand and proceeded to hand him the bill. As he slowly accepted it, his eyes filled with tears and he said, “Thank you so very, very much. This money will help me more than you’ll ever know.” As the light turned green and I started to drive away, I heard, “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

I obviously will never know this elderly man’s story of hardship. I’ll never find out what that small gift of money was used for, nor will I ever realize if he perseveres through it; however, there is one thing I’m confident of: he needed someone to step up and offer a kind gesture. Twenty dollars for many of us equates to 3-4 fast food lunches, gasoline or highway tolls for a few days, or several candy bars in a cup from Starbucks®. But a twenty dollar bill for this man clearly will stretch so much further.

Offer a sense of genuine “niceness” or a gift of kindness to someone today—like a simple smile or something more. Regardless of how you choose to express it, know that nice people are all around you. And by demonstrating simple acts of niceness, you can significantly elevate your sense of meaning and gratitude in life. Positive acts, when not demonstrated for reciprocity sake, usually offer profound positive effects, which inevitably actually lead to a reciprocal ripple effect. So be the one who “nicely” stands out in the crowd, towering high above the rest.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Treat the Disease to Please

Blog by Tracy Butz, CSP - Speaker, Author, Influencer

With this month being extremely busy due to the continued holiday season, I thought I’d share some strategies that have helped me to conquer the chaos a bit so I can enjoy my time with family and friends more. For me, maintaining healthy personal boundaries can help reduce stress a lot. 

I believe it starts by knowing what you like, need, want, and don’t want, and then making choices which are aligned with those needs and wants. That doesn’t mean you live your life without compromise or flexibility; you just don’t give into the demands and unrealistic expectations of others. Following are some thoughts and actions that lead to healthier boundaries: 
  • Develop a strong sense of personal identity. Realize and take pride in what makes you unique.
  • Respect yourself. Feel an inner confidence and assurance, independent of praise from others.
  • Be respectful of others. Look for positive and honorable qualities in others.
  • Forgive. Forgive others and yourself. Move on from past mistakes and difficult situations.
  • Accept accountability. When things go wrong, be accountable for your mistakes without pointing fingers at others.
  • Teach your lips to say no.  Understand that you are free to say yes or no. And, when appropriate, you should do so without feelings of guilt, anger or fear.
  • Expect mutual benefit in relationships. Whether at work or at home, healthy relationships should provide value and benefit for both parties. It likely won’t be the same for each of you, but it should be a shared venture.
  • Welcome feedback. Some feedback is positive, and some is constructive. Understand the intent of the other person, and try to look past how it was delivered. Choose to learn and grow from feedback you receive.  
  • Refuse to take on the problems of others. It is admirable to help others through difficult situations; however, there is a big difference between offering assistance and accepting another person’s problem as your own.
  • Celebrate successes. Celebrate personal accomplishments by treating yourself to a movie, taking a vacation day to do what you want, indulging in a small treat, etc. Additionally, get in the habit of noticing and applauding the success of others. By recognizing another person’s achievements, you are demonstrating value and appreciation for their effort and results. 
I realize that treating the disease to please and making brave choices in the process isn’t easy. Putting your needs first and teaching others how to treat us can be very difficult. Actually admitting how you feel to yourself may be one of the hardest things you’ll ever do. Yet I have found that after feeling a little guilty at first, you likely will have less chaos in your life—eventually feeling and being much happier, more liberated, less stressed, and a lot stronger. You will be a better you.

It's About Progress Not Perfection

Blog by Tracy Butz, CSP - Speaker, Author, Influencer

Often times, people avoid making changes in their life because they just don’t know what steps to take. The process can seem overwhelming; they may feel they don’t have the time or resources to get “there.” And if where to start is unclear, either excuses are made or people become stuck and unable to take even one step forward. These realities occur when unrealistic expectations are set and we believe that if we’re not perfect in our pursuit; we’re a failure. The truth is, because we are human, we are unable to attain perfection. Being imperfect is what makes each of us unique. And that’s a good thing.

Perfection should never be the goal because the outcome will almost always be failure. This doesn’t mean we don’t set the bar high, because we absolutely should. But we need to focus on progress, not perfection; target the process we are experiencing now and the steps we are taking, not on the outcome.

So where should you start? In order to make a lasting change, the change itself needs to be meaningful to you. It can’t feel imposed upon you, rather than chosen by you. For example, let’s say you want to spend more time reading interesting and insightful books. In order to carve out the necessary time in your schedule, you choose to reduce your Facebook interaction time by two hours per week. If someone told you that you had to make that change, you probably wouldn’t take kindly to that demand. Furthermore, if someone took it upon themselves to limit your Facebook involvement two hours per week in some way, you would likely loathe it more…primarily because you just encountered a change being done to you. No one likes change forced on them. No one.

In addition to the change being meaningful to you, it also has to be something that you believe in, that you value, that you want to get behind and commit to. You have to know the work ahead of you will be worth it. So what habit or behavior are you wanting to change in your life and why do you want to do it?

Do you want to go back to school and earn a diploma or degree?

Do you want to feel happier?

Do you want a job you enjoy going to?

Do you want to make more money?

Do you want to lose weight?

Do you want to find love?

Do you want to stop smoking?

Do you want to be more confident?

Do you want to say “no” more often?

Do you want to find your passion?

Do you want to laugh more?

Do you want to be a better spouse?

You are one decision away from totally transforming your life. Imagine that!?! And just know, I am with you on this journey, and I am a work in progress, too! I continue to make changes in my life so I keep growing and propelling myself forward in a positive directionbecoming better and better. In fact, the question I ask myself before deciding to alter a habit or behavior is, “Will this one choice to change, help me get one step closer to becoming my greatest self?” If the answer is, “Yes,” I know I am on the right track.

Aim for awesomeness. Strive for spectacular. Just allow wiggle room for slips and trips.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Build Unstoppable Self-Confidence

Blog from Tracy Butz, speaker, author, influencer

As a professional speaker, I am asked often how I am able to get up on stage, in front of hundreds of people, and speak. One of the greatest pieces of advice I was given early on in my career was that no one in the audience is there for you specifically…they are present to hear your message. And for me, that was enough to help me build my self-confidence and overcome any anxiety of standing up and addressing an audience. By shifting my mental focus away from me and to my message instead, I was able to concentrate more intently on confidently delivering a high-quality, results-focused message in a way that hopefully will resonate strongly and influence behavior change.
I’ve come to realize over the years, that self-confidence is really more of a skill than a trait. And as I age, I seem to acquire more of it, worrying less about what others think of me and focus more on how I can be the best version of “me”. After all, no one is you, but you. So why try to portray someone else? They are already taken, and they certainly aren’t you.

As with any skill, if you don’t exercise that muscle, it will soon become a floppy piece of flesh. So how do I continue to build my self-confidence? Here are 12 simple (not always easy) strategies I use to continuously strive to grow, develop and nurture my self-confidence muscle: 
  1. Love who you are. Start each day by looking in the mirror and loving who you see. Self-confidence starts by having a positive perception of yourself.
  2. Insist on positive self-talk. Instead of telling yourself what you did wrong or what needs to change, focus on what you did right. The voices inside your head need to be positive instead.
  3. Forget perfect. Understand that no one is perfect and making mistakes is how you learn.
  4. Start small. Set one or two small goals for yourself every day and every week. As you accomplish them, enjoy that warm, happy feeling that fills your soul.
  5. Journal accomplishments. By making note of positive goals you’ve successfully attained, you have a tool to help enhance your self-confidence if it is ever shaken. Reflect on your achievements often.
  6. Enjoy the feeling of success. Far too often we are more concerned with moving onto the next goal or thing that we don’t celebrate success we just attained. Take a moment and “smell the roses.” It feels amazing!
  7. Give the gift of gratitude. Tell someone how grateful you are to know them. Express how you truly appreciate him/her. Helping others feel special helps us feel good about ourselves.
  8. Dress sharp. You don’t need to spend a lot of money to dress nicely. Wear pressed clothing that fits you well and accessorize your outfit it in a way that emphasizes your assets in a classy manner.
  9. Stand tall. Those who stand with slumped shoulders and walk with lethargic movements display a lack of self-confidence. Make a positive impression by standing up straight, keeping your head up and making natural eye contact.
  10. Be healthy. By eating well, maintaining a regular fitness routine and getting adequate sleep, you are more inclined to feel a strong level of confidence because you know you are taking care of yourself personally.
  11. Compliment someone. When you genuinely offer a compliment to another person, you see him/her light up. That light reflects back to you and feels great.
  12. Prepare. The best strategy I know to demonstrate a high level of self-confidence is to be prepared. Preparation for a task, meeting, conversation, etc. helps you to feel strong and positioned for success.
By demonstrating and continually striving to enhance your level of self-confidence, you can become unstoppable in what you can achieve! There is nothing more attractive than stunning self-confidence.